Sometimes criminal cases can come down to just a couple of pieces of evidence, especially when the police make critical mistakes that leave the door open for defense attorneys to weave their magic spells and try to cast doubt on even the strongest cases. The O.J. Simpson trial immediately comes to mind. Now, the Jerry Sandusky child molestation defense may have gotten a boost from a police misstep.
Love it or hate it, our justice system in America hinges on the prosecution proving the guilt of a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. That means that twelve people have to be thoroughly convinced that Sandusky is guilty and have absolutely no inkling of doubt in their bodies when they return a verdict that would almost definitely send an old man to prison for the rest of his life. Reasonable doubt is one of the most interesting facets of law. The good thing is that the jury decides exactly what reasonable doubt is, and at the end of the day, it comes down to whether they can unanimously return a verdict with a clear conscience.
Thus far, it seemed like Jerry Sandusky’s defense team was bumbling through the proceedings. They gained little or no ground by cross-examining victims on the stand who gave damning testimony one after another. They had little to offer up but character witnesses, one after another proclaiming that Jerry Sandusky was a sweet old men who loved children and would never do anything to hurt them. But today, a tape was approved by the judge to be played where police forgot to turn off the recording while the victim stepped out for a break. What ensued was a sixteen minute conversation between the victim’s attorney and police where it was discussed whether the police could tell the victim that others had come forward and told similar stories. The idea was to get the victim to open up and tell more of the graphic details. The tactic, legal according to the officers involved, was to convince the victim to tell more by leading them on with some details from other victims. Only these offerings need not be true. Basically, they told the victim that other people had already admitted that actual rape situations had occurred, so it was allright for him to open up and tell his own story.
This finally gave the defense an actual strategy. They are now contending that the police planted seeds when talking to victims in a long investigation that was set on bringing charges against Jerry Sandusky. To make it worse for the prosecution, the officers involved said that no such thing occurred during any of the interviews. They were recalled to the witness stand after the tape was played and had no choice but to admit that they had “forgotten” that incident and that it did happen in that one instance. So basically, two of the chief police officers involved with compiling the case against Sandusky through victim interviews were found to have already lied to the jury. That could be Reasonable Doubt 101.
The facts remain. The biggest problem still facing the Sandusky defense is that it seems very unlikely that this many victims would band together to lie against him. Especially when the lies are not exactly a positive thing for the witnesses or the defendant. Think about John Travolta’s recent woes. Two male masseurs both accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. It’s conceivable that two males in the same business might have conspired to try to suck some money out of a very wealthy defendant. Is that what happened? No one knows for sure right now, but it would be a lot easier to convince a jury that two people in the same line of work who probably knew each other hatched a master get-rich-quick scheme. However, the victims in the Jerry Sandusky case share no common bond except that they were all connected to Sandusky. Most of the victims probably don’t know each other. The abuses alleged span decades, meaning that the victims are from different age groups.
The bottom line: it would take one massive conspiracy to make that many unrelated people come together to accuse Sandusky of such sordid things. And thus far, no one has filed any civil proceedings to try to get money out of this, although it is a relative certainty that both Sandusky and Penn State University will see some lawsuits before long. If Sandusky is convicted, it will just make civil court proceedings easier because the facts will be corroborated.
In the end, does any of it matter? Remember, Sandusky’s lawyers did not seek to have the trial moved. Many of the people on the jury, if not all, are closely acquainted with Penn State University. Unfortunately in this case, the prosecution cannot move the case because it thinks it cannot get a fair trial on its side. Sandusky’s lawyers probably figured that if any jury in America would acquit Jerry Sandusky, it was the people there. But do these jurors want to live with the fallout of being the ones to set this man that so many people believe is guilty of heinous crimes free? Then, they always have the option of only convicting him of some of the crimes and not all. There are a lot of decisions for these jurors, that’s for sure, and the world will be watching.
What would you do? Would the tape recording and the “planting of seeds” cast reasonable doubt in your mind if you were on the Sandusky jury?